Monday, August 23, 2010

Report: The Inaugural Nightfall 4 Miler

On the evening of Friday, August 20, I participated in the very first Nightfall 4 Miler road race held in Warrensburg, Missouri. A product of my former college roommate's brother -- a state-champion in high school and now-professional distance runner -- this inaugural race was a fairly small event with (I'm estimating) around 80 participants. I was the only barefoot runner, though one woman ran in a pair of pink Vibram Fivefingers Bikilas.

After an hour-long trip from our home to Warrensburg, my wife, kids and I arrived with about 40 minutes to go until the starting gun. That gave me just enough time to pick up my registration packet, use the restrooms, warm up and get situated.

I was looking forward to this race for a few reasons. First, it was nice to be back in Warrensburg, the town where I attended the University of Central Missouri prior to graduating in 2002. Second, I got to see a couple of my best friends again. My former roommate Daniel, his wife Noelle and I were all close friends in our campus ministry. (Aside: I actually helped them get together. When Daniel and I were living in a house off campus, I'd invite Noelle to come over and hang out. Eventually, they became close, fell in love and the rest is history.). Third and finally, I was looking forward to seeing what a run longer than 5K was like. Since restarting running last fall, I had NEVER run more than 3.1 miles at a time prior to the 4 Miler.

Looking back and all things considered, the race went better than I felt it did at the time.

I started off with Noelle and her friend. We paced each other for about 1 1/4 miles of the course, and then I started wearing out and cramping a little bit. Knowing that taking walking breaks can improve one's overall time, I walked and they ran ahead. After several intervals of running and walking while Noelle continued running, she slipped away so far into the distance that I really never saw her again. I'll admit: That was disappointing. I felt bad that my body wouldn't permit me to run as long as I'd have liked to. I thought that maybe, maybe I could run the whole thing, but I had to be honest with myself. I hadn't trained as well for this as I had for the Hospital Hill 5K and it showed. Could I have kept pushing myself to the brink of near vomiting and even collapse? Yes. Did I want to do that? No.

At the two-mile mark I was running through the Start/Finish line to begin the second of two laps in the course. There was cheering. I saw my wife and kids, and Daniel even came over and we high-fived. Cool. As I was heading down the road from that point, I heard the announcer behind me:

"And now here comes the first finishers of the four-mile course! Let's give them a hand!"

Half as slow as the first finishers. Great. I flopped an arm down in frustration. The same scenario actually happened in the Hospital Hill 5K, too. As I was running down to the finish of that race, officials were motioning me to quickly get to the side because the first finishers of the 10K were not far behind me. History was repeating itself. I'm essentially half as slow as the fastest runners out there.

I don't know what my split was at the half-way point. I just wasn't paying attention when they said it. I think it might have been 23 minutes and change. I don't know. My Runkeeper report says it was around 22:09. Again, I can't know for sure. I was determined to try to finish strong and make up time on the downhills. That said, I continued to struggle somewhat.

I met up with another female runner at about the three-mile mark. She had run the first half of the race with her child in a stroller and was now pretty worn out. We stuck together for almost the entire last mile.

Then, the rain came. With about a half mile left to go, the sky opened up and it rained pretty nicely. I told myself, "The sooner you finish, the sooner you can get out of the rain." I was also concerned about my iPhone. So I ran most of the rest of that distance back to the Finish line. I got wet, but my iPhone was fine.

I finished with a time of 44:04, according to Runkeeper. For a four-mile course that was a 11:01/mile pace.

Comparing those times to Hospital Hill, I did pretty well. Every runner knows that you're slower the farther you run. This race was 9/10 of a mile longer than the 5K. This overall pace was 11:01 compared to Hospital Hill's 10:45 pace. Not bad, given the difference in length. What's more, I walked quite a bit during this race. Taking that into account, you could argue that when I ran during the 4 Miler, I ran faster than Hospital Hill, because the pace wasn't much different for the two events. So even though I a had bitter taste in my mouth that evening about how I ran, I did pretty well.

Looking back on the race, the roads on which we ran didn't help. Many of the neighborhood roads that were used had old, cracking asphalt. Honestly, they weren't overly barefoot friendly. Hospital Hill had much smoother roads overall, a plus when you're running barefoot. It was also a little disconcerting that most neighborhood traffic still flowed as we ran. Officials and law enforcement would stop traffic on crossroads, but we would often have vehicles drive past us in either direction during the race.

The race was a little tough on my feet and legs overall. Some muscle or tendon in the left arch of my foot started burning after a while, probably because I'd never run for that long before. My calves and shins also felt the effects of the longer distance, too. While my soles and calves never hurt as badly afterward, my lower legs have been feeling a bit shin splinty since then. They got a bit of overuse, I'd say.

Hopefully next year I'll be in a lot better position to do well in this event. Hopefully the race organizers will have electronic timing -- early finishers had to wait for more than an hour afterward for the results and their awards. Hopefully the City of Warrensburg will repave some of their streets in the mean time. :-)

I want to thank my wife, Glenda, for her support of my running and for taking the pictures you see here. I love you, Honey!

So what do you think? Have you tried barefoot running? Have any questions about the run? Please leave your comments below.

Friday, August 20, 2010

Dr. Scholl's Introduces Fast Flats

NOTE: My wife has posted her full review of these shoes.

Dr. Scholls, a company known for their wide range of foot products, has introduced a line of light, thin, rollable footwear for women called Fast Flats. In an video advertisement on their Facebook page, they promote the slippers as "flats in a flash" -- an option for women who are tired of wearing their heels. They reportedly go for $12.99 USD and are available at Walgreen's stores (and likely others, too, but Walgreen's tends to be barefoot friendly).

I've heard of footwear like this before, but they were distributed by vending machines in Europe. I've been hoping that a company here in the U.S. would release something like it, and it looks that time has come.

While I'm still a staunch proponent of people going barefoot first, there are times when minimal footwear is a better idea. This especially applies in situations like the workplace where shoes are often required. Fast Flats seem like they might fit the bill.

I'm going to buy a pair of these for my wife, Glenda. She likes to go barefoot, but is prone to wear some kind of footwear in public. I'd like to get her opinions on how well they fit, their durability and overall effectiveness as a minimal shoe option.

NOTE: My wife has posted her full review of these shoes.

It's disappointing that there's nothing like this for men. Here's hoping Dr. Scholl's or someone else comes up with something. For now, at least the better half of the population can get some relief from regular footwear.

What do you think of this product? Ladies, would you buy these? Please let me know in the comments section.

Monday, August 16, 2010

Dirty Soles: Badge of Barefoot Honor or Totally Irrelevant?

WARNING: Some of the content of this post may be objectionable for some readers. It contains photos of (gasp!) dirty feet. Just sayin'. You've been warned.

There's one aspect of the barefoot lifestyle that's continued to be equally intriguing and confusing to me. If you spend any time perusing the online posts of "hardcore" barefooters, you can't help but find comments about it. It's DIRTY SOLES.

For many barefooters, dirty soles are a badge of honor. People will either gloat about how "black" their soles are or ask others about it as if they are wanting to know how committed they were to the unshod lifestyle. After someone comments about going barefoot somewhere, it's very possible to receive a question like, "How black did your soles get?" or comment like, "I bet your feet got REALLY dirty doing that! Pictures?"

Oh yeah, pictures. There's a LOT of barefooters out there that LOVE to see and post pictures of dirty feet. Again, I think a lot of it is kind of a "badge of honor" thing, but I honestly think a lot of foot fetishists use them for their, um, personal enjoyment. Some of the photos are just dirty feet, like this one:

Now, while some might say, "Oooh, look how dirty his feet are! That is SO AWESOME!" I say, "Wow, he has high arches." But I digress.

Other photos have not just dirty feet in them, but the actual person attached to the dirty feet. This person is often intentionally showing their sole to the camera. An example:

As evidenced by the above picture, sometimes the person's foot isn't even that dirty! For some reason, however, there are lots of people who are into this.

Hey, man, whatever.

But guess what? I've even played along with this, too. I don't know why, but after a New Year's Day run this year, I posed for a couple of photos with Barefoot Rick, a local barefoot runner who's pretty well known throughout the community. The evidence:


I really don't get it. To me, going barefoot is really not a competition to see whose feet can get the blackest. I just like to go barefoot because I think it's better for my feet.

In fact, measuring someone's devotion to a barefoot lifestyle by how dirty their soles are is hardly an accurate indicator. This morning, for example, I went for a barefoot run in the neighborhood. I was out for approximately 25 minutes. I got blacker soles from that short time than going barefoot the entire day Saturday -- including shopping at local stores for a few hours.

For those who get some kind of sexual pleasure out of dirty bare feet: Ooookay. Not my thing. For those who see black soles as a badge of honor for going barefoot: Rethink that. It doesn't equate. For those who thing going barefoot is gross because you get dirty soles: I can understand why you think that way, but it's really quite harmless. I regularly tell people that simple baby wipes are very good at wiping off the objectionable dirtiness.

What do you think of black soles and barefooting? Is that what keeps you from trying an unshod lifestyle? Do you see dirty feet as a barefoot badge of honor? Please leave your feedback in the comments below.

Monday, August 9, 2010

Set Your Piggies Free!

Thanks to my fellow barefooter Barefoot Moe for finding this cool video for kids of all ages!

Monday, August 2, 2010 Readers' Sometimes-Ironic Comments on Barefoot Running asked on their Facebook page, "How many of you have tried barefoot running?" As you may know, barefoot runners just like me believe it can lead to fewer injuries and greater enjoyment due to the mechanics of landing with a mid/fore-foot strike and the increased sensory awareness from having bare sole to the ground. But there's others that strongly feel the opposite: That barefoot activity can be nothing but harmful.

I couldn't help but notice some amazingly ironic (and sometimes humorous) comments left by's fans, however:

  • "I have enough injuries thank you."
  • "no no no i like my feet thank you"
  • "not barefoot but without socks !!! OUCH !!! and i got the pictures to prove it,couldnt run for about 2 weeks,i tried after 1 wk blisters would just open up!!! so i'll pass on the barefoot. lol"
  • "Tried it - loved it - been doing it since - oct 2009 - in Vibram Five Fingers"
  • "Can you say, plantar faciitis?"
  • "the last marathon I ran I saw a women running barefoot and she wasn't looking so good."
  • "I really wanted to be a "barefoot" runner in my Vibrams, but I keep getting blisters on my heels every time."
  • "Running in shoes tears up my pedicures enough! No thanks to the bare feet!"
  • "I know so many runners who get injuries from either running barefoot or in those horrid slippers with the toes. Modern man is not designed for this. Stick to what keeps you injury free and trotting down the road. Like good supportive shoes!!! Gimmicky fad shoes are not the answer to running issues."
  • "I did 6 miles years ago barefoot...Never again. No blisters but feet were red and hurt for a day or two."
  • "You bare foot runners are going to have some really bad backs in years to come ...."
  • "No it makes feet DISGUSTING"
  • "I have tried it and my feet were so sore. I figure running shoes were invented for a reason. We no longer get a "bonk" on the head with a frying pan before surgery, so I don't think we should revert back to running barefoot either."
  • "To you all who think God intended us to run barefoot? He also intended for us to run naked but that wouldn't go over very well either ;)"
And those were just a few from the first 170 or so comments! We in the barefoot community have a LONG way to go to dispel a lot of myths. But then again, there's lots of people out there who are very close-minded and will never hear of barefoot activity as long as they have feet.

What do you think of these comments? Have YOU tried barefoot running? Have you tried any kind of barefoot activity outside your home or the swimming pool? What do you think about the state of barefoot running in our culture? Is it a fad? Just another way for shoe companies to make a buck? Please sound off in the comments section below.

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